The Initiating Process Phase is the second phase of the California Project Management Framework (CA-PMF) Project Management Life Cycle (PMLC). The purpose of this process phase is to begin defining the overall project parameters. This includes aligning the Stakeholders’ expectations with the project’s purpose and establishing the project management and quality environment needed for a successful outcome. This process phase also introduces monitoring and controlling activities into the PMLC.

See a graphic of all six Key Elements of the Initiating Process Phase in the Additional Resources chapter. For a broader view, the CA-PMF Key Elements Table (.pdf) compiles all Key Elements across the Project Management Lifecycle (PMLC). This 11 x 17 inch document can be downloaded and printed for easy reference.

Each process phase Key Element is discussed independently below. Click on a Key Element title to expand the view and see the additional content.

Project success requires laying a good foundation during the Initiating Process Phase. The project staff, business organization, and external Stakeholders must understand what is being undertaken, what to expect as the project takes shape, and what each group’s roles and responsibilities are. The following are four key focus areas that can help the Project Manager get off to a good start.

It is Never Too Early to Engage Users

Especially during the Initiating Process Phase, user research and engagement is important to accurately understand and define the project scope. Users have first-hand knowledge of the business need. This means they are best positioned to know what the system needs to be able to do.

Devoting the time and effort to upfront user research will result in a clearer and stronger business case that will drive the downstream planning activities. By understanding who the users are, what they need, how their needs could be met, and when the users need a solution, a project is justified in simple terms that can be easily aligned to organizational mission and goals.

There are many ways to engage users early on in the project, including surveys, facilitated group discussions, and being embedded within an operational environment to observe a day in the life of a broad spectrum of users. Focus on the “what” of the business need and not necessarily how it is being done as that will be fleshed out during development.

Effective Sponsorship is the Key to Success
Effective leadership is essential to project success. The project team relies on clear strategic decision-making by the Project Manager. However, it is not enough to have a skilled and committed Project Manager. Project success also requires the active participation of a committed Project Sponsor(s) to provide the leadership necessary to deliver value to the business. A Project Manager, no matter how knowledgeable and skilled, cannot provide all of the direction, business strategy, and resources needed to deliver on project goals. Undertaking a project without the full engagement of the Project Sponsor is a risky endeavor.

During the Initiating Process Phase, the Project Manager needs to ensure the Project Sponsor is engaged, has an active role in the early stages of the project, and understands the critical nature of his or her role in delivering a successful project.

The Project Sponsor’s role demands tough decision-making with the needs of the business taking top priority. The role may require redirecting resources from the business to support project needs, or ensuring that the external environment understands and responds to the needs of the project. During the Initiating Process Phase, the Project Manager can use the Project Charter and the associated drafting process as a model for the ongoing reliance on the Project Sponsor and the critical role he or she plays in the project’s success.

The Business Need Drives the Project

During the Initiating Process Phase, the project begins to develop an interaction style between the growing project team and the business organization. The Project Manager should develop a management style that involves the key business resources (including Project Sponsor, Business Owner, and Subject Matter Experts) from the beginning. The Project Manager establishes the expectation that these business representatives play an active role in planning and executing the project. The Project Manager keeps his or her eye on the business problem that is at the heart of the project need, but everyone on the project team should understand the identified project need and comprehend how it connects to the project work they do each day. After all, the ultimate goal of a project is to provide a solution to the business problem.

Check-In with Your Organization’s Enterprise Architect or Opportunities May Be Missed

During the early stages of the project development effort, vet the project’s vision with your organization’s Enterprise Architect. The Enterprise Architect role is to ensure that the organization’s strategic approach to business and information technology (IT) are in alignment with one another. This step will help validate that the project scope, goals, and objectives are coordinated with the enterprise vision and don’t conflict with other enterprise initiatives. This vetting and alignment will increase the likelihood that your project will deliver the expected business value. It will also provide the project team with additional insights into project costs, help reduce overall maintenance and operations (M&O) costs, as well as confirm the long-term viability of the proposed solution.

Engage Stakeholders Strategically

During the Initiating Process Phase, the Project Manager should identify the project’s key Stakeholders and how they relate to the project. Some key Stakeholders may need to be informed about the Initiating Process Phase or other aspects of the project. Depending on their anticipated role, Stakeholders may provide input to the Project Charter so that it incorporates their interests.

Some Stakeholders have limited experience working with projects. They may need to be oriented to the expected project schedule, activities included in the schedule, the important decision points, and what ongoing communications should be expected as the project takes shape.

As the plans for the project develop, Stakeholders need to be informed about the commitment they need to make to ensure the project’s success. This is an opportunity for the Project Sponsor and Project Manager to engage Stakeholders, promote the project business case, and discuss the expected organizational changes. Stakeholder feedback and support is critical to project success.

Tackle the Project in Bite-Size Pieces and Deliver Incrementally to Reduce Risk

Project risk increases with project size. The larger the project – whether measured in dollars, staff, end users, or function points – the greater the chances that the project will not launch on time, exceed budget, or fail to meet the intended need. It is easy to begin a project by assuming a “Big Bang” implementation has to happen, without thinking about whether functionality can be delivered in smaller pieces over time. Iteration reduces risk. It makes big failures unlikely and turns smaller failures into lessons that can be immediately integrated.

During the Initiating Process Phase, the Project Manager, Project Sponsor, and other business representatives should carefully consider where it is possible to divide the work encompassed by the project scope into smaller pieces that can be delivered over time. The trade-off is between:

  • Delivering everything that users want at once, with the risk that what is delivered isn’t what is needed or doesn’t work properly, against
  • Delivering improved functionality over time, with the chance to make changes if what is delivered isn’t needed or doesn’t work properly

This strategy reduces risk by not having everything ride on one large product delivery that must be performed correctly to produce any value. An incremental or modular development and deployment approach will allow the project to deliver value to users more quickly. Additionally, the project team will learn more information about the users, the environment, and the technology with each release and use those lessons for the next release.

Change is Hard, So Start Planning for Your Change Early

The earlier the better when planning for change. New systems cause widespread change in processes, capabilities, and roles of program staff. Make sure the organization’s program staff is actively engaged in learning what the change is, why the change is being made, and what resources will be available to help them manage the change and be successful.

The following table identifies primary participant roles and responsibilities for this process phase. In some cases, a project might have unique requirements that call for additional roles or responsibilities depending on the project’s size, type, and complexity.

Definitions of all roles referenced in the CA-PMF is provided in Project Role Definitions in the Additional Resources chapter.



Executive Sponsor(s)

  • Keep project aligned with organization’s strategy and portfolio direction.
  • Provide leadership on culture and values.
  • Provide escalation path for project risks and issues.
  • Ensure continuity of sponsorship.
  • Work with other sponsors.
  • Focus on realization of benefits.
  • Provide assurance to the project team by communicating executive-level support.
  • Provide feedback and lessons learned.

Project Sponsor

  • Identify the Project Manager.
  • Identify key business objectives and criteria for success.
  • Provide escalation path for project risks and issues.
  • Identify Stakeholders including Business Owner(s).
  • Identify members of the planning team.
  • Contributes to and approves the Project Charter.
  • Contributes to and approves the preliminary Project Scope Statement based on a clear business problem, need, or opportunity.
  • Contributes to and approves the Project Organizational Chart and RACI Matrix.
  • Develop the preliminary Project Staffing Estimate.
  • Communicate with the business organization, executive management and external Stakeholders about the plans for the project.
  • Understand the project scope and its relationship to the organization’s strategic plan.
  • Participate in a Kick-Off meeting to establish and introduce the project team.
  • Demonstrates commitment to the project.


  • Any person or group that has an active interest in the project outcome or process, and wishes to participate, or is invited to participate, in the tasks associated with the Initiating Process Phase. This includes SMEs.

IT Sponsor

  • Provide input to the Project Sponsor regarding the Project Charter.
  • Assure that the project fits within the organization’s IT strategic goals and priorities.
  • Assist in identifying other key IT Stakeholders within the organization who may have future responsibilities for implementing and operating the functionality created by the project.
  • Review and provide feedback regarding the draft Project Organization Chart.
  • Support the Project Manager and Project Sponsor in the preparation of the preliminary Project Scope Statement.
  • Review and provide feedback to the RACI matrix.
  • Review and provide feedback to the project staff estimates.

Business Owner(s)*

  • Provide input into drafting the Project Charter.
  • Define the business outcomes and measurable objectives.
  • Provide input into drafting the Preliminary Scope Statement.
  • Provide input regarding business resources committed in the preliminary Budget Plan.
  • Assist with identifying Stakeholders and review the Stakeholder Register.

Project Manager

  • Leads the development of the Project Charter.
  • Review project concept in relation to the organization’s strategic business and IT goals and priorities.
  • Provide status updates to the IT Sponsor, Project Sponsor and other Stakeholders.
  • May perform high-level analysis of early project risks to complete the Project Scope Statement.
  • Assist with developing project staffing and resource estimates.
  • Help to define and document project roles and reporting relationships in a RACI Matrix.
  • Conduct Stakeholder Analysis and create Stakeholder Register.

Department of Technology (CDT)

  • Provide input, guidance, approval/disapproval of the project.
* May also be referred to as Business Sponsor.

The following processes are associated with this process phase. The list below contains a high-level description of these processes. See the Processes and Activities section of the Initiating chapter in the CA-PMF for more detail.

  • Establish Project Staffing - The process of establishing project management and staffing is critical to building a strong foundation for success. This includes identifying an appropriate Project Sponsor, Executive Sponsor and Project Manager who are all well matched to the demands and complexity of the project. This also includes designation of the project planning team, which will play a critical role in planning the many details of the project during the Planning Process Phase. 
  • Create a Project Library - The Project Manager creates a project library to maintain project information in an organized manner, allowing easy access and collaboration for team members throughout the life of the project. The sponsoring organization may have existing standards for project libraries, or a local directory structure or document management tool can be used as appropriate.
  • Review Current Documentation  - Before they develop the Project Charter and Preliminary Scope Statement, the Project Manager and Sponsor(s) should review all historical documentation that may be relevant to the new project. This helps provide lessons learned and can help shape future requirements.
  • Conduct Stakeholder Analysis  - Stakeholders are individuals or groups who are likely to affect, or be affected by, the proposed project. It is important allow their needs to be considered from the very beginning. The output of this process is a preliminary Stakeholder Register, which will continue to be developed as the project progresses.
  • Perform Charter Analysis - The Project Manager works closely with key Stakeholders to perform the analysis needed to prepare the Project Charter as well as the preliminary project scope, budget and schedule. This analysis includes reviewing documentation provided by business leads, reviewing the instructions for creating a Charter, and identifying potential business process changes and re-engineering needs.
  • Monitoring and Controlling - Monitoring and Controlling activities may not be extensive during the Initiating Process Phase, because actual project development work has not yet begun.  However, the Project Sponsor and Manager should monitor all outputs of the phase to ensure timeliness and completeness.
  • Project Approval Process - The state’s project approval process continues during the Initiating Process Phase, including a completed Stage 1 Business Analysis as part of the Project Approval Lifecycle.
  • Initiating Process Phase Review - After all the Initiating Process Phase activities are accomplished, an Initiating Process Phase Checklist is completed. Completion of the checklist ensures that all Stakeholders, including the project staff and the sponsoring organization, understand what is underway and what to expect as the project proceeds.

The following activities are undertaken in support of the processes that are associated with this process phase. The list below contains a high-level description of these activities. See the Processes and Activities section of the Initiating chapter in the CA-PMF for more detail.

  • Identify Project Sponsorship - Selecting appropriate project sponsorship is critical to project success. Ensure the Executive Sponsor and Project Sponsor understand the project’s scope and will be accountable for project success. The Executive Sponsor is the champion of the project both within and outside the organization. The Project Sponsor is responsible for serving as the principal authority on matters regarding the communication of business needs, and for resolving escalated issues regarding priority, scope, resources, and business requirements.
  • Identify a Project Manager – The Project Manager is identified by the Sponsor(s) or organizational Project Management Office and assigned to begin project-initiating activities. The Project Manager is responsible for leading the project team and overseeing the project’s daily activities. The selection of a Project Manager should be based on the project’s complexity and organizational culture, in combination with the candidate’s strengths, experience, skills, subject matter knowledge, and interests.
  • Form the Project Planning Team - The Project Manager, with input from the Sponsor(s), assigns project planning team members. A goal is to create stable team that meshes well with the project’s work demands and culture. Typical planning teams consist of a Project Manager, Business Analysts, IT Sponsor, Systems Analysts, Technical Leads, Business Leads, Project Sponsor, Executive Sponsor, Steering Committee, and other identified key Stakeholders.
  • Identify Stakeholder Project Priorities - Stakeholder project priorities should be identified after the Stakeholder analysis is completed. This will help the Project Manager and Project Sponsor better understand the Stakeholders’ top priorities and their potential flexibility in the project constraint areas of time, cost, scope and quality.  
  • Create a RACI Matrix - The RACI Matrix ((also known as a responsibility assignment matrix) documents the participation level of the project team and other Stakeholders as related to completing tasks and/or deliverables for the project. The RACI Matrix lists major project deliverables and when they should be completed. It also lists identified Stakeholders for each deliverable and their levels of responsibility.
  • Develop the Scope Statement - The project’s preliminary Scope Statement provides the high-level definition of the project, details the project deliverables, and describes the major objectives. The preliminary Scope Statement defines what the project intends to accomplish by addressing and documenting the business need the project will address, the project and deliverables requirements, as well as end product requirements.
  • Develop the Budget Estimate - The Project Manager develops a preliminary budget estimate based on currently known information. At this stage, the estimate may be limited to only the project’s upcoming planning activities. It may also include information gained from research on similar state projects.  
  • Develop the Schedule Estimate - As with the Budget Estimate, the Project Manager develops an estimated schedule based on currently known information. Tasks and completion dates may be limited to the project’s Planning Process Phase activities. Target dates or other milestones provided by the Sponsors are also included.
  • Document Assumptions, Constraints, and Risks - Comprehensive and accessible documentation of assumptions, constraints, and risks will be key to completing other Initiating Process Phase Activities, including identifying Stakeholders, creating the RACI Matrix, and drafting the Project Charter and other core documents.
  • Develop the Project Charter - Development of the Project Charter is a collaborative process that includes the Sponsor(s), Project Manager, and other key Stakeholders. The Project Charter demonstrates organizational support for the project and the Project Manager, and documents the business needs of the new product or solution, service, or other project result. Approval of the Project Charter allows other Initiating Process Phase activities to begin.
  • Complete the Stage 1 Business Analysis Documentation (PAL) - The S1BA is part of the state’s Project Approval Lifecycle (PAL). It provides a basis for project management, program management, executive management, and state-level control agencies to understand and agree on business problems or opportunities, and the objectives for addressing them.
  • Complete the Initiating Process Phase Checklist - A checklist can assist the project team with quickly and confidently identifying areas of concern within this process phase of the Project Management Lifecyle.  Completion of the checklist provides a clear milestone that the Initiating Process Phase is complete.

A number of project management outputs are developed during the Initiating Process Phase. The outputs are associated with tools available for your use.

For a complete list of all tools that are part of the CA-PMF see the templates page. A list and definitions of all Templates referenced in the CA-PMF is provided in Which Templates Should I Use and When? section in the Templates chapter.

Tool/ Output


Project Priorities Template

An assessment tool to be completed for key Stakeholders. The assessment serves to identify the priorities of the project.

Project Charter*

Formally authorizes a project. It describes the business need for the project and the anticipated project results. It formalizes the existence of the project and provides the project with the authority to expend organizational resources to support project activities.

Stakeholder Register

Identifies the organizations and individuals with a role in the project. The Register provides important input for the planning of governance and communication for the project.

RACI Matrix*

Identifies the level of responsibility held by each owner in the creation, review, and approval of project products or documents during each project phase.

Stage 1 Business Analysis (S1BA) (PAL)

Part of the PAL, the S1BA provides a basis for project management, program management, executive management, and state-level control agencies to understand and agree on business problems or opportunities, and the objectives to address them. Additional information on the S1BA can be found in the: Statewide Information Management Manual (SIMM) Section 19A.

Complexity Assessments (Oversight)

A self-assessment tool to be completed by the project team. The assessment serves to discover and characterize the business and technical complexities of the proposed project.

Project Status Reports (Oversight)

Includes status reports that communicate the current overall status of a project. It should be distributed to appropriate team members, Stakeholders, and sponsors on a regular basis.

Project Document Approval

This document can be used to circulate documents for review and approval. Attach to those plans and documents that need to be reviewed or signed off. Use is dependent on the project size and scope and the needs of the project team.

Initiating Process Phase Checklist

Identifies the key activities that are to be completed during the Initiating Process Phase.

* There are two versions of these templates available. A standard and a mini. The mini is designed for the smaller of the low complexity projects, pilot projects, and those who are exploring a proof of concept. The standard version is for all other projects.

The following deliverables are created as a result of the processes and activities completed during this process phase; these are called outputs. Many of these have an associated CA-PMF tool for you to use. These are described in the tools section. The outputs associated with this process phase are listed below:

  • Completed Project Priorities Assessment
  • Completed RACI Matrix
  • Completed Stakeholder Register
  • Completed Project Charter
  • Completed Stage 1 Business Analysis (PAL)
  • Established Project Document Library
  • Completed Initiating Process Phase Checklist